Thursday, April 19, 2018


THE ALBUMS 1982-87

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There are many reasons why I love Peter And The Test Tube Babies. One of those reasons is the fact that main men Peter Bywaters (vocals) and guitarist Del Strangefish (guitar) seem to be playing in two completely different bands… and the results have always been inspiring and outstanding! Peter is a straightforward, in-your-face street punk with a wicked sense of humor while Del plays as if the Test Tube Babies are an anthemic Post-Punk band like Skids or Magazine. It is a strange and thoroughly wonderful mix of styles that shouldn’t work yet it does… and it has for 40 years! Del’s siren-like guitar riffs lift these songs off the ground while Peter steers them in different directions like a rogue helicopter pilot. You can experience the magic yourself with Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records’ excellent six CD box set THE ALBUMS: 1982-87.

Forming in 1978 and appearing on the VAULTAGE 78 compilation, the band continued to release songs on various Oi compilations. While these early tracks laid the foundation for the band’s legendary Punk status, Peter and the Tubers were still finding their voice. Oddly enough, their 1982 debut album – PISSED AND PROUD - was a live release and includes powerful versions of songs from the EP “Banned From The Pubs” and single “Run Like Hell.” Inching closer to their signature sound, this live album is a fine introduction to the band but their signature sound would blossom on their studio releases.

THE MATING SOUNDS OF SOUTH AMERICAN FROGS (1983) was an album that introduced the band’s unique approach to Punk Rock. Like an unlikely mix of The Adicts’ SOUND OF MUSIC, The Clash’s GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE, and 999’s SEPARATES plus a few UK Subs b-sides, MATING SOUNDS… was – and is – something unique and exciting. The Punk bluster of “One Night Stand” is broken mid-song by a gentle acoustic bit before kicking back into high gear. “Guest List,” “Let’s Burn,” “The Jinx,” “Never Made It” and other tracks are shouty Oi Punk songs with some of the catchiest guitar riffs you’re likely to hear on any album from this era. “Blown Out Again” is as delicious as it is malicious. The funky horn-laden “Pissed Punks (Go For It)” takes a swipe at Wham and other Top 40 Pop chartbusters. MATING SOUNDS… is nearly 40 minutes of fun that still sounds fresh today.

THE LOUD BLARING PUNK ROCK ALBUM (1984) was originally solicited as a collection of 1979 recordings that had remained in the vaults until the band’s success in ’83. While that would explain the album’s primitive Punk sound, it was complete B.S. In essence, this third album was actually the follow-up to MATING SOUNDS… but recorded under completely different circumstances. Made up of songs written for a side project that Peter and Del were involved with plus some very early unrecorded Test Tube songs, LOUD BLARING… was a fine Punk album but worlds away from MATING SOUNDS… This did sound like the same band that had recorded the early singles and the live debut album so it wasn’t too far away from the band’s origins.  Certainly fun, LOUD BLARING… is a fine release but not the album we deserved after the highs of their previous album. 

With a title that was rooted in their wacky sense of humor, ROTTING IN THE FART SACK was a 1985 EP that brought the band back to the poppy world they had discovered with MATING SOUNDS… “Ten Deadly Sins” is a fun Cow-Punk romp. “Rotting In The Fart Sack” sounds like a drunken rewrite of “The Air That I Breathe” (which certainly points towards a wicked sense of humor). “Spirit Of Keith Moon” and “Boozanza” would show up – in slightly remixed form – on their next album.  The CD version in this box includes some further single edits and live tracks.

1986’s SOBERPHOBIA was the proper full-length follow-up to MATING SOUNDS… and was a foray into the Pop world without abandoning their snotty Punk roots and sense of humor. Similar to The Adicts’ musical trajectory from Punk stalwarts to melodic Post-Punks, this release may not have pleased their hardcore Punk fanbase but anyone looking for a collection of crackin’ tunes was in for a treat. SOBERPHOBIA is filled to the brim with punky hooks and shout-alongs: “Louise Wouldn’t Like It,” “Key To The City,” “He’s On The Whiskey (Watch Out),” and “Every Time I See Her” are fun as hell highlights from yet another tasty album. (Hey Pop fans! Chris Gent plays sax on the album.  You can also here him as lead vocalist on The Records’ third album, MUSIC ON BOTH SIDES!)

TEST TUBE RARITIES gathers up rare early tracks including non-album singles, compilation appearances and demos along with other non-album cuts released during the period represented in this set. This disc serves as both a ‘loose ends’ collection (which is obviously its intention) as well as a nice look into the band’s evolution on one handy disc!

A glorious racket from start to finish, this is a box that lives up to the band’s legend.  Seek and you shall find wondrous audio treasures hidden within! 

Your pal,

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